On 24 February 2016, 19 women in the Dedza District of Malawi were arrested and fined. They were charged with living off the avails of prostitution. On 8 September 2016, the Zomba High Court ruled that the Dedza Magistrate had no jurisdiction to hear the case and that the arrest of the women was unconstitutional. According to the court, the law was meant to protect sex workers against exploitation. However, the law was being used to arrest, detain, and fine sex workers and this violated their human rights.
Regional updates: Africa
In Uganda, commercial sex work is illegal and perceived as immoral and socially unacceptable. As a stigmatised and often criminalised group, sex workers are frequently the victims of human rights abuses, including sexual violence. Historically, the majority of sex workers have lacked adequate access to information about their rights, safe sex, health services, and equality before the law. In turn, this has significant implications for basic safety, the spread of HIV/AIDs, and unwanted pregnancies.
“It’s my first time in the academy and it has really opened my eyes as far as sex worker advocacy and movement is concerned,” said Precious Zuzu.
Zuzu, who is from Swaziland’s Family Life Association, was among 18 participants from Swaziland, Cameroon and Kenya who were selected to attend the 10th Sex Worker Africa Academy (SWAA).
This year before the 13th AWID International Forum, AWID hosted the Black Feminism Forum (BFF) from the 5-6 of September. During the BFF, there was a sex worker-led session called “Sex Work and Feminism: what does it mean to be an African sex worker feminist?” organised by Ntokozo Yingwana and Onkokame Mosweu from the African Sex Workers’ Alliance, Amaka Enemo from the Nigeria Sex Workers’ Association, and Sanyu Batte from Lady Mermaid’s Bureau.
On the 29th of April, 2016, sex work leaders in Kampala, Uganda, met to discuss the formation of a new sex worker-led network. They decided to form the Uganda Network for Sex Workers Organization (UNESO) to replace the former Uganda Harmonized Rights Alliance.
In a three-day intensive training, African sex workers were trained as Regional Community Experts for the Global Fund.
The technical assistance training for regional sex workers experts included sex workers from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the ASWA Regional Secretariat. Sex workers learned the skills and knowledge that they will use to train sex workers in other countries on the Global Fund and its processes.
NIKAT, a sex worker-led organisation and NSWP member has started a community-led radio project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The founding members of NIKAT wanted to find new ways to do outreach to the community in Addis Ababa and they decided to start a sex worker-led radio programme on FM Shegar 102.1. The programme is called Betegna Radio Programme.
African sex workers’ rights activists were recently trained on how work with regional, and international human rights processes in Port Louis, Mauritius. The goal of the training was to help sex workers’ right activists work with the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACPHR) as well as other human rights mechanisms including treaty bodies and conventions, to hold their countries accountable when their rights are violated.